Having just passed through the joyous days of the Christmas Season, I received an education once again in how people celebrate. We all know how to celebrate Christmas, and how to throw a birthday party–yet it can seem foreign and strange to think of celebrating those days in the Church that the world is not celebrating with us. How does one throw a party for the Birth of Our Blessed Mother, for example? Or how would one celebrate a patronal feast day? We have no cues to take from the outside world.
The great thing about this is, however, we actually do have a template. Borrowing from what I have observed of the merrymaking and parties at Christmas and around the year, I present to you a list of the basic ingredients of a celebration. When you have an upcoming special family feast day, or a high holy day or solemnity is imminent on the Church Calendar, and you feel out of ideas–here is the checklist of what makes a party a party. Customize according to your feast day/time/budget/creativity/energy needs:
- (Invitations) This may or may not apply in each case. Perhaps you will invite a dozen family friends with formal invitiations, or simply e-mail aunts and uncles. This step is optional, because 95% of the time your celebrations will be a simple immediate family affair requiring only those of you that gather around the breakfast table each morning.
- Food It’s the food that puts the “feast” in “feast day,” isn’t it? Your celebration should be centered around a distinctively appealing meal, with at least one appropriately-themed delicious and eye-pleasing dish. The spectacular website Catholic Cuisine serves up just such recipes and ideas for upcoming feast days. (If you have to pick only one thing to do on a holy day, making a special dish in honor of the day may be your best bet.) Announce it in the morning so the family can look forward to it all day!
- Decorations Luckily for those of us who need creative help, websites like Pinterest and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families take us by the hand and infuse us with ideas. Since the highlight of the feast day celebration is usually the special meal of the day, the decorations ought to begin with the dining area–meaning at the very least creating some sort of centerpiece for the table, to focus the mind and heart while eating. You may also include: a tablecloth of an appropriate color for the solemnity or saint, crepe paper bunting and rosettes (my personal favorite way to say “This is a party, people!”), large handmade paper signs announcing the occasion, candles, flowers, saints’ statues, and beautiful music in the background. (Yes, music CAN be considered a decoration!)
- Entertainment At feast day celebrations and parties, entertainment will be fun, festive, and fitting for the nature of the occasion. Suggestions: playing board games, guess-the person guessing games, home-made trivia games, watching an appropriate religious film.
- Gifts/Favors Even when the feast celebration is among the members of the immediate family, nevertheless give even the smallest gifts to the children, such as holy cards of the saint of the day, particularly if it is one of the children’s baptismal days or name days or patronal feast days. Some ideas for feast day gifts and favors include: holy cards, spiritual bouquets, prayer books, other religious books, beautiful Rosaries, religious movies, sacred art (paintings, icons, small statues), CDs of sacred music, a subscription to a Catholic devotional magazine.
Now that you are re-oriented and refreshed, reinvigorated and relieved with this simple list of how to transform an erstwhile ordinary day into a feast day, mark the next month’s days that you’ll be joyfully celebrating within your Domestic Church!